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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Short-finned Pilot Whale
Order Cetacea : Family Delphinidae : Globicephala macrorhynchus Gray

Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus).  Illustration by Pieter A. Folkens.Description. A rather large, black delphinid with globose head, no beak, and a bulbous swelling on the forehead in adults; dorsal fin far forward on body, beginning about on plane with back of pectoral fins; pectoral fins long and narrow, about 1/5 of body length; mouth oblique; teeth large, about 10 mm in diameter, 20 mm high, conical, incurved, placed only in anterior part of jaw, and numbering 8-10 in each tooth row. External measurements: total length of male, 4.72 m; tip of snout to dorsal fin, 1.37 m; tip of snout to pectoral fin, 838 mm; length of pectoral fin, 864 mm; breadth of flukes, 1.07 m.

Distribution in Texas. Common inhabitants of offshore tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters of the world. They are common in the Gulf of Mexico and numerous stranding and sighting records are available from Texas.

Habits. Short-finned pilot whales may congregate in large numbers offshore — schools of several hundred have been observed — but group size usually ranges from 10 to 60. They are seen inshore at infrequent intervals and occasionally become stranded by severe storms. In fact, these are among the most frequently stranded of cetaceans, and often mass strand. These dolphins have mass stranded 15 times in the Gulf of Mexico, although none of these events occurred in Texas. Pilot whales are highly communicative and make a variety of sounds, including noises described as "squealing, whistling, loud smacking, whining, and snores." They probably are excellent echolocators.

The food habits of pilot whales are not well known. In the wild they feed on squid and fish; a captive whale consumed 20 kg of squid per day. This particular whale showed no interest in the fish fed to dolphins in the same tank.

Breeding and calving take place in winter. Gestation lasts about 12 months. Calves are about 1.4 m long at birth and weigh approximately 59 kg. Females are believed to give birth only once every three years.

Illustration credit: Pieter A. Folkens.